Assignment 3 closure

In the end I have decided to call a halt to this project, at least for assessment purposes. The assignment that I sent to my tutor still exists on the blog and the print that we agreed would supersede it is enclosed in the assessment box ready for delivery.

I can sense a much longer journey for the work that I did in the assignment but I need to close down and concentrate on completing some other work to ensure that the assessment is completed on time. So thanks Mum from the file called Mother narrative. It’s been a piece of work…..

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I don’t photograph biscuits, that’s not what I do. Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl at the Benjamin Stone archive

 

I visited the current small exhibition of Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl at the City Library in Birmingham, which is their response to the Sir Benjamin Stone archive; and to view both the Daniel Meadows retrospective, which is quite impressive.

This is the third work I have seen that responds to that archive, Anna Fox’s ‘Back to the Village’ was inspired by it and I went to listen to a talk by Faye Claridge last year as she spoke about her residency working on the archive . Before attending the talk by these two collaborators I went to see the work (definitely a work in progress), which is on display very near the Daniel Meadow’s work.

But back to the collaboration. As the work is displayed/mounted I could sense the ‘openess’ of the work, how by the images are placed within the mount they provoke a response to the plate as a whole. These plates all have five images, even if an image is a text and even if the image is missing, because the mount has apertures for five images (the structure of the plates are similar – one central large aperture surrounded by four further apertures in the corners of the plates). This plate structure implies a determined placement of imagery, as if there was an association between those on a similar plane, connected by a purpose.

And text. Text which provided an anchor it seems, to the plates of images; seeding/suggesting/implying a narrative direction from which to drift from or to, even if that might be sub-conscious perambulation. I wondered about the presentation and soon after the talk at BIAD later in the early evening started I could see how that came about.

Sir Benjamin Stone’s collection appear in album’s: album 46 for example is titled “types of English, French and Russian women” – and page after page are photographs of women, interestingly there is no denotation of which women came from which country, just pages of female portraits looking out at the viewer, almost as catalogue entries, and perhaps they were.

Rickett and von Zwehl had landed upon Album 31 as their entry (not an easy task it appears) into the archive. Album 31 is entitled “miscellaneous” – though no explanation as to why these images became privileged to be entered in that album, but no matter – it is there they reside. The collaborators used the visual artifacts of album 31 to work out their response and thereby answering my earlier question.

The talk was interesting from a number of perspectives: it was clearly unrehearsed and founded on a PowerPoint presentation with all of it’s traducing potency fully realized. The initial thoughts that were expressed was about their collaborative methodology, and this talk was about how that approach was echoed by the ‘collaborativeness’ of the talk – each taking the lead or withdrawing easily as if the language they spoke was one, but without disguising the ‘seperatedness’ of their travels to the starting point of this work together. It was engaging, serious, often amusing and the talk was better for this unrehearsed, almost haptic, approach.

There were distances between the two artists, most notably when discussing their personal practices, and whilst not meaning to appear pejorative in that assessment because their delivery when talking about their own work was not about the two of them, but a reflection of themselves as a working artist– the collaboration though – which had its own, completely ‘other’ character.

The other significant thought that I took away with me was about the work itself, how these artists, with a common voice, had interpreted the archive and made another piece of work. Similar to the work of Fox and Claridge, whose personal perspectives delivered equally individually voiced reactions, the work presented here gave yet another. Making more work from a base settled in late nineteenth and early twentieth century imagery might enable a freer interpretation and departure from the original photographic presentations. However this work employs very personal work, work that was both discarded but revered enough to not be jettisoned; these artists took from their own archives images that were perhaps consigned to their own miscellaneous album. Images that still had some reason not to be shredded, but without the original target left in them; their resurfacing through the editing process provided the ability to recontextualize themselves. Rickett spoke purposefully about the shifting contestability of images – losing the ‘preciousness’ of the images, how once they meant or spoke about one thing but through the mediation of time and memory they are given permission to present another element in another narrative. Images of half eaten biscuits photographed on impulse for their beauty and resonance, as they lie discarded by a daughter on the wooden floor.

These two artists met every Thursday and went through the process of curating images (text as imagery as well) until coming collaboratively to an agreement. They spoke about how that process would reveal information about themselves to themselves, how sometimes there were disagreements, sometimes evident in the work itself, how it wasn’t all sweetness and light.

I am interested in ‘Open’ works, about the free interpretation of artworks and this collaborative venture by Rickett and von Zwehl presents this viewer with a set of short episodes in a narrative of my own making, their presentation of such a scale that it needed close examination, a strategy that drew me closer to the work and helping to exclude extraneous confusions.

A quite inspiring evening.

 

Assigment Three re-working

 

Looking back, final edit

Looking back, final edit

I had a meeting with my course tutor Sharon to review my coursework and to discuss the assessment submission. Assignment three had a series of images of my mother that in the main had her looking back in a reflective stance. After talking it around a little while it was thought that maybe instead of a series of images one might suffice, this highly edited image above. The image says a lot about what I’ve thought about through the course, firstly it is a construct, two images of two different times creating a narrative that is fairly directive. My mother regards me, her son, at a point in my life – the point was my first date with Elaine (she saw the sweater and decided she didn’t want to be seen with me so sartorially challenged and avoided me (but that’s another story). The front wall of the house, the door and myself date from an earlier time, my mother and the rest are contemporary. It is therefore a series of truths and not a truth, to tell a story albeit in single image form.

The square format reflected the original image format – it was one of a very few that my father made of me – and I thought the crop to those dimensions fitted the with the sense of narrative that I wanted to project. I like her stance, outside of the property borders to a house that she dwelt in for most of her life, bore five children in (she brought three children with her when she moved in). She regards me, I look slightly away. There is life in this image (for this viewer).

Wall hanging - with light

Wall hanging – with light

Sharon suggested I put the image on the wall and re-photograph it. I must say that I wasn’t immediately enthralled by that prospect as it would suggest that I am honouring the moment, exalting it – ‘framing it’. And because I know the core of the emotion I found difficulty in that concept, I thought about it some more and decided to try it, though purposely askance. I was really pleased with the light as it echoes some of my other work with transient light in assignment five. I was’t sure then and I’m still unsure now. I want to recognise something here, again suggested by Sharon, which is about ‘letting go’. Images have strength, for those that have a connection to the image it is understandably difficult to render that emotional connection void, something that I’ve been encouraged to do when working with archives. Honouring the emotional connection of an image is a noble thing of course, but to make images that develop another narrative, then leaving that connection behind is perhaps  a requirement. It might though be difficult to recognise when this has taken place when the original connection is personal and when it hasn’t when working with personal imagery, or imagery that has a proximity. These constructed images do not, and indeed cannot, contain the original intent and I am very pleased to ‘let-go’ of whatever I imagine might be going on in the photograph, though I fully recognise that a viewer knowing the cast of characters might question that…..

With a patina of dust

With a patina of dust

 

I also had another look at the image from an another angle and tried to pick out the ‘fingered dust’ on the glass. I have a strong feeling what this might denote/connote and would wonder if anyone else would gather similar information from the image.

I had another thought which was to shatter the frame with the photograph in it and then re-take the image, I may still do that, but I realise it is a once only exercise and considering assessment – sending the framed image intact would be good deal easier (and safer) than trying to gather the shattered and splintered remains of a broken frame, but then that may provide evidence that I haven’t left everything behind……..

 

Personal Project & Study day, Penarth

Original print and text orientation

We make the Path.

The Study visit to the ffotogallery in Penarth to view the work of two landscape photographers – Paul Gaffney and Michal Iwanowski became more interesting than I thought, or hoped it might be. In another course (Gesture and Meaning) an exercise had me documenting ‘where I live‘ and I stuck rather rigidly to the brief and produced some images; I remember at the time considering how little I was presenting of the environment, it’s people and it’s history.  I had thought at the time, about twelve months ago to re-visit some ‘places’ in the village that are mentioned in the local history group’s archive – http://www.bartonshistorygroup.org.uk and maybe reinterpret some of the photographs from the extensive library. The ‘light’ project which I started some time ago has provided me with an opportunity to develop some of those thoughts and I have turned this into a personal project – here and here. I presented the first prints of this project at the ‘Study day’, as we were encouraged to bring some on-going work to critique and it was suggested that I ‘post’ them here as the project has moved on from those initial thoughts. The presentation in print form is unsuited to digital projection on a screen – even if I enlarge the image for the screen the text, which is a vital component of the work, is diminished beyond recognition – see above; so I have restructured the images to reflect their different circumstance. The original prints were made on A3 Canson Infinity Baryta Satin finish paper – the image size was 32 cms X 21.5 cms and the text printed at 10pts in Cambria body font. The decision to choose that text size was to separate the text from the image somewhat and encourage both a connection with the image at a distance and then with the text close up – neither could be encountered at a similar distance thereby creating a tension. I was also aware that I had provided text to all the images, whereas in another setting – a gallery wall or a book – I could afford either images with no text or text with no images, but since I was presenting individuals images that strategy wouldn’t have worked I felt.

The work on view at the ffotogallery by both artists investigated the notion of a journey, which is what I feel this personal project is all about. Paul Gaffney, whose journey was as much conceptual as it was physical and Michal Iwanowski whose work described the very personal echoes in a land that had been trod by two of his predecessors during WWII. The study visit allowed a great deal of conversation about the twin works and what those works communicated to each of the visitors on the day. My personal readings were mediated both by the intents of the artists but also how the conversation on the day coloured that view. Gaffney, who uses meditation as part of his practice, decided to walk and use the meditative process of walking to lead him to make photographs, whereas Iwanowski wanted to re-tread and retrace the escape that his grandfather and great uncle made on foot from Russia to Poland. Gaffney ‘found’ the title for his work in the poem by Antonio Machado “Traveller, there is no path” …. two lines from the poem:

“Traveller, there is no path,
The path is made by walking.”

This seems a perfect analogy for the work that Gaffney undertook – his intent was to walk for 30Km a day – which was to ‘walk and by that process make some work’ . The gallery was at great pains not to reveal any information about the specifics of where Gaffney walked other than to say it was Southern Europe, in his book he mentions France, Spain and Italy – if I remember correctly. The routes he chose all had reasonable trails and overnight stops, but the process of travel, without seemingly a destination in mind, perhaps only a means to an end, seemed to be the purpose:

“By walking the path is made
And when you look back
You’ll see a road
Never to be trodden again.”

And interpreting this text I saw the images he made as either short term staging posts – in the long journey – or as views to the future. I feel that text anchors to the notion of a sort of carpus diem and a letting go of the past, not wanting it to hold him back, the relentless distancing by the continual monotony of the stride. Gaffney’s reflection came before him and not behind on the 3500 Km journey. Further reading here from Photomonitor.

Iwanowski, on the other hand, purposely had a destination in mind and he carried the past with him as luggage on his journey. Though he never retrod the complete distance, some 2000 Km that his forebears did as a means of escape , there was ample evidence of the echoes of his past haunting the journey he made. This work was all about looking back, maybe to reclaim some form of lost inheritance or even to lay some of it to rest – his Grandfather has passed, though his Great Uncle lives on. I was more immediately moved by these images than I was with Gaffney’s. The conceptualness of Gaffney’s work presented itself as more distant, less emotionally charged than Iwanowski’s. And again text was a key element in the amplification of those emotive charges. Iwanowski didn’t have a lot of text, but those that were available in the room were those taken (and sometimes edited by the artist) from the diary of those two escapees in 1945. This anchorage provided a real sense of the personal in this work, it seemed to charge the images with both the echoes of the past and the artist’s present tense reaction to it.

We were told that Gaffney had provided a very clear set of instructions as to how the images were to be presented, their elevation, their proximity to one another and of course their order. This was then a very prescribed order and, as I have said earlier, no hint as the geographic reference of the images. The spectators to Gaffney’s work were invited to accompany him on a very specific journey, I commented on how certain images provided punctuation marks in the series and when I later looked at this work in two other forms, the book he has made of the work and the artist’s website, I note that there are no two layouts similar. The end image (one of those punctuation marks I noticed early on) was the same for all three layouts, but the images were differently sequenced and that made me think about both what the artist was creating. It seems to me now that his purpose for the differing, very specific excursions, was to illuminate alternate narratives that the artist derived from his investigations – no one journey having primacy over another, just a different way of assimilating the information provided by the imagery from the same expedition. As Foncuberta might say, the truth is not in the image it is in the fiction we create from their association.

Iwanowski’s work didn’t have a prescribed starting point, the viewer could enter the walled space and turn left or right, the book of the work of course has a start and an end, the gallery on the artist’s website equally so, so I found it a trifle confusing that the artist and gallery didn’t prescribe a direction of travel. Nevertheless the singularity of purpose of Iwanowski’s work was seemingly key for me, much as the arbitrary walking of Gaffney had perhaps too many layers to it for me. I wandered around Gaffney’s work trying to find a purpose, I thought I noted an impelling forward looking narrative, but this was somewhat diminished when I saw his other sequences. It was Iwanowski’s work that evoked a connection with my personal project. The text that he used (despite an acknowledgement of some editing) stemmed from the past, a personal reflection that seemed to the artist to find an echo in the images he felt compelled to make along the journey. The ‘light’ series have similarly provoked a response, marking a space that have held a history that was important enough to be recorded textually by someone in the past. I wanted, somehow, to be able to bring those moments from the past to ‘re-surface’ them, make them relevant, or gain some relevance once more. Some of the texts have socio-political references, some are about the trivia of everyday life whilst other reference some of the major cultural changes to the land and the those that peopled it in a time perhaps almost forgotten. What follows is an attempt to display the selection I took to Penarth with the text more accessible to this blog structure:

My loving wife Joane shall have the use of all my Goods and furniture in the Chamber where I now usually lye and alsoe of four pair of Sheets one table cloath one dozen of Napkins two hand towels two Little barrels my second best brass Kettle two pewter dishes six pewter plates the metle pottagepott and Such Other of my Goods and Chattles as She Shall have Occasion for and desire not Exceeding the Value of Forty Shillings and from after the decease of my Said Wife the Said Goods Chattells and furniture to said two Children Joseph and Sarah to be equally divided between the Share and Share alike.

My uncle used to make the fizzy drink. It was a funny machine that he had, it was a funny contraption, more like a treadle. He’d only got one leg and it was something you had to work with a pedal and then you put something into it to colour it or to make it fizz. I can remember when he first used to do it the bottles they had – you’ve seen them bottles where there was like a glass marble you pushed down – it used to be that sort.

 

The meeting was attended by nearly every labourer in the parish. After the warrant of appointment had been read, William Windus, one of the labourers, desired to know how the Rector and parish officers became trustees of land which was common land. This was explained by reading part of the Enclosure act. A lengthened discussion then took place and several labourers present stated their determination never to pay rent for their allotments nor to quit.

It was an obligation of the parish to provide stocks for anyone who misbehaved. The punishment being usually fixed for a Sunday. The stocks were placed at the corner of Fox Lane so that the prisoners could not only feel the scorn and contempt of people going to church but were made an unhappy target for any missiles which had been brought for the occasion.

There was, however, a lot of illness – the dreaded consumption, diphtheria, scarlet fever, head lice and ringworm were very prevalent. I remember boys wearing skull caps to hide the gentian blue on their heads after being treated for ringworm.

That gentleman, whose colleague as churchwarden I became about nine months before his death, told me that before the inclosure of 1797 he had frequently gone to tithe-cart in Middle Barton field – that is, had collected in waggons the bough-crowned tenth shocks of wheat, cocks of barley, oats, &c.,

29th September 1853. The labourers selected four of themselves to act as a committee with the agent in bringing the business into shape. The meeting which was at one period rather turbulent broke up”. It sounds as if the Peasants revolt had started.

December 14th 1650 a servant girl named Anne Green was hanged for murdering her illegitimate child. After being cut down her body was sent to the Anatomy School, Oxford for cutting up. While there she was resuscitated. In 1651 Anne Green came to live in Steeple Barton where she married and had three children. She died in 1659.

Rapid expansion of the village of Middle Barton began with the sewer being installed. Unfortunately, the Bartons have never been a tourist attraction or considered pretty villages. In October 1955 a reporter from the Oxford Mail after visiting Middle Barton wrote “It was quite the ugliest village I have seen in Oxfordshire, indeed it is the only really ugly village I have seen in Oxfordshire”.

I think I am at a point which tests the limitation of blogging and to render them better for virtual viewing I would need to post on a web-site specifically designed for photographic purposes; but like Gaffney I am no hurry, or as Machado might have it: ‘We make the Path’ by the work we do, the journey we take.

The Mirror and the lake

The Mirror

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

What ever you see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful—

The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.

I am important to her. She comes and goes.

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Sylvia Plath

A camera, that mechanical construction with no heart or conscience cannot conspire, it is unable of itself to censor what is fed into its unblinking lens except to shudder when bidden by that which controls it. Whatever light that enters the frame has no other sense of purpose but to illuminate the sensoriuos medium that prevents its exit by swallowing it whole, and in doing so creating a latent image, whether on silver halides or the charge of an electronic cell. A dumb machine producing an invisible image. The light that is guided into the lens is part of the construct of fiction and isn’t any business of the mechanicals. The mirror; Plath’s mirror, Lacan’s mirror perhaps, are mere reflections of the vista surveyed in mute attitude to whatever flickers passes by it’s field of view; ever vigilant, ever impassive, ever non-judgmental and devoid of any emotional construct, it consumes immediately and without favour.

The lake provides an echo, a reflection on what is above it or beside it; offering a misted view coloured by love, desire, by time or some other force constructed by a life lived once. It will be different tomorrow. Its complexion will have changed, more rounded perhaps and maybe, but not necessarily obviously, wiser. In Plath’s lake we see the ravaging echoes of history, those narratives that haunt and plague us, those memories once anchored in the depths but which surface unprompted, having been released by a trigger unkown, unbidden and unwilled.

This poem by Plath, that Fiona Yaron-Field cites as one of her inspirations as a student of photography, has me reflecting also on what it is that I’m working on. The ‘lake’ visage, if I stay with the metaphor, is the fiction that I see as the conduit for the truth that I want to explore about myself, and the environment I exist in. I can construct that image, I can take some form of control – or to put it another way, release the control – to explore what I feel about the thoughts and feelings that are important to me; those being my love, my home, my sense of place within all this carnage called life. To try and make sense of stuff.

December 14th 1650 a servant girl named Anne Green was hanged for murdering her illegitimate child. After being cut down her body was sent to the Anatomy School, Oxford for cutting up. While there she was resuscitated. In 1651 Anne Green came to live in Steeple Barton where she married and had three children. She died in 1959.

December 14th 1650 a servant girl named Anne Green was hanged for murdering her illegitimate child. After being cut down her body was sent to the Anatomy School, Oxford for cutting up. While there she was resuscitated. In 1651 Anne Green came to live in Steeple Barton where she married and had three children. She died in 1659.

What I have been struck by with Fiona’s work is the longevity of the work’s in progress, the student work has a clear delineation to her practise today, what was being investigated then is still being explored today, sometimes through different means, but the budding social documentarist, influenced by Don McCullin, is now providing work to ask questions of it’s viewers about conditions of people in our society. Those questions are perhaps more nuanced these days and accompanied by more conceptual work informed by her work as an Arts Psychotherapist – the ‘Sandtray’ work a specific example – or the intensely personal  ‘Cabinet‘ and ‘To cut a long story short” works. It is this last work that I found most echoed with my current investigations for assignment five. I don’t have that long to donate to this assignment, but I do have the inclination that the ‘light’ series might be the start of a much longer project. And whilst I don’t have the gift of time to apply to this assignment I have the gift of history to draw from, and a great deal of it to boot.

Westcote Barton was the home of Mr W. Cox who was the official photographer for the War Office and was sent to photograph action in the Boer War, the first time a photographer was used on active service.

Westcote Barton was the home of Mr W. Cox who was the official photographer for the War Office and was sent to photograph action in the Boer War, the first time a photographer was used on active service.

Light settling

Fourteen O six

Fourteen O six

The material I’m gathering for assignment five has been diverging for a little while, I was conscious of it, but couldn’t work out what was happening. I had some strong feelings for what I now realize are twin narratives, both these strands are important to me, to how I feel about both myself and each investigation.

The course brief for this assignment is to produce fifteen images and write about 300 words, and I was thinking about this containing brief when listening to Fiona Yaron-Field’s presentation at the OCASA study visit. Of course a student’s life has a trammeling delimited by course structure, whereas once a student is released from those confines the parameters become self bounded. The ‘work’ may take a few weeks, or a few years, or more likely an indeterminate period and become a ‘work-in-progress. Fiona started to document her relationship with her daughter – born with Down’s syndrome – and by implication the artist’s relationship with the condition itself. The work with her daughter came to a natural conclusion after her daughter entered her teenage years, but the investigation into the condition has carried on – some eighteen years or so to date. Other projects this photographer has underway have a longevity that I found had me questioning the sense of purpose within an eight or twelve week period of an assignment.

Fourteen O six

Fourteen O six

Fourteen O six

Fourteen O six

Another spectral presence that has been hovering over me for some time is text, or perhaps more accurately words and reflecting on the discussion from the Study Day has helped to unlock some barriers I have had coupling text to images. This course of study and research into a visual medium has done nothing to diminish my respect for the words. The strength of words still holds me to account far easier and far harder than imagery, this course has compounded the notion I have had that pictures; photographs, paintings and any constructed visual medium, are constructs, fictions, lies – whether intentional or not. Perhaps intentional fabrications have greater integrity than the ‘records’ of social documentary, news reportage.

Thinking of an exercise at the beginning of another course, which had me, presenting a ‘document’ of the place where I live was brought back to mind as I considered the work on the current assignment on this course. I had ambled around the village I have called home for close on thirty years for that previous exercise, and I remember thinking about how shallow the pictures provided, how the fiction that I presented was informed by the sole use of framing – or by whatever creative approach I provided to produce the post processed result. The village, the home that I ‘documented’ has a greater sense of depth for me than those provided, it didn’t go nearly far enough to the deliver sense of place that I feel it has.

And similarly I have been documenting the same sense of ‘light’, that illuminating presence that occurs and pricks and constructs a narrative in my home. These domestic and village narratives are becoming distinct and need to be encouraged to part from each other. Underpinning, or perhaps undermining, these thoughts is the partial reconstruction of the family home and I wonder if that destruction and subsequent reconstruction is playing a more significant role in the scenarios being played out in front of me.

The decision is made to bifurcate the project and develop the two strands independently, to see where both strands lead. The decision has already had one significant ramification which is to do with the addition of text. For the exterior image of home the text will come from a number of sources both contemporary and older, perhaps ancient. I will use sources such as the local history group and publications to provide a partial view of the village ‘where I live’. And then to the interior view of the domestic, which I now think will be intensely personal, but despite – or maybe because of this – I will continue to post on this and make the decision which one to submit in a while. I will also start to research texts that chime with these images; my thoughts are that they maybe directly coupled or decoupled to the image, but, despite what someone said to me earlier, and I paraphrase ‘this is a visual arts course’ I may decide to allow the text to have primacy. Either way I think that denoting the images with a time has served it’s purpose and I shall continue with or without text.

Two shows: Uncertain States annual exhibition in Whitechapel and the John Goto show at Art Jericho, Oxford.

 

What connects these twin exhibitions is Goto’s work Lewisham which appears to have had their first outings at these events and that leads me to consider the effect of context, of the artwork in a situation, but I’ll come to that later.

Uncertain States is ‘a lens based, artist led collective Releasing a quarterly newspaper we attempt to expand a critical dialogue and promote visual imagery. The work reflects some key social and political concerns and challenges how perception is formed in a society like ours, on issues as diverse as politics, religion and personal identity.

In a time where the proliferation of imagery is rendering itself insignificant and meaningless, the artists in Uncertain States are concerned with the intention of the work. All the work published is made to be viewed with consideration and concerned with the meaning and reading of the photograph.

Uncertain States aims to showcase both established and emerging artists also through our exhibitions and web based publications. We include work from all photographic genres. Releasing a quarterly newspaper we attempt to expand a critical dialogue and promote visual imagery. The work reflects some key social and political concerns and challenges how perception is formed in a society like ours, on issues as diverse as politics, religion and personal identity.

In a time where the proliferation of imagery is rendering itself insignificant and meaningless, the artists in Uncertain States are concerned with the intention of the work. All the work published is made to be viewed with consideration and concerned with the meaning and reading of the photograph.

Uncertain States aims to showcase both established and emerging artists also through our exhibitions and web based publications. We include work from all photographic genres.’ Website here

The catalogue for the show lists nearly thirty artists with, perhaps notably, Kennard Phillips, Tom Hunter and  Roy Mehta amongst them. Most of the work has a price tag, indicating a selling show. I had arranged this visit with Fiona Yaron-Field with whom I had contacted after visiting the Taylor Wessing 2013 show where she had been selected for her image ‘Becoming Annalie’. Fiona spent some time discussing the work with us, I was joined by two fellow students: Catherine Banks and Keith Greenough and her generosity was very helpful as we discussed the work and the artists behind them.

My overall impression of this ‘Group’ show is how difficult it was for me to comprehend the diversity, the inclusiveness of all the works on show. Spencer Rowell’s physically layered work that used dimensionality as part of it’s aesthetic explored the notion of self portrait from many perspectives, the layers of narrative matched by the application of layers of substance. The context of the work – which also interested me because of its use of text as a vital component – anchored in the written word became cogent only after Fiona provided the circumstance of the work and that opening to the work was extremely important to my comprehension – at least partways. Julian Benjamin’s ‘experiments in social fiction’ interested me in its use of a fictive narrative to develop ideas – in this case – as he says: “These are not pictures of things, these are pictures of ideas. I’m not saying this thing happened, I’m saying this idea happened.

And this is the photograph to prove it.”

But, as Benjamin says in the catalogue, he uses digital manipulation to create fantastic events, the photograph is evidence of it’s own truth and therefore is a self depiction of the real.

Frederica Landi’s examination of the transient marks on the human skin initially made me think of scarification but when I contemplated further I saw that these marks – the crumpling of skin, the marks of hair and the pressing of clothing to the skin’s surface were all transient marks, these marks reminded me of some work I have planned to explore about love and to which I hope to think about about starting soon.

Fiona Yaron-Field’s work continued her exploration of Down’s Syndrome condition.Ophir, her daughter, was born with is and I have written about it previously here and here. This new work looks at women – the 2% of expectant mothers who know they are carrying a child with this condition but who choose, for many different reasons, to carry the baby to term. It maybe the end of the project for this artist, but her discussion surrounding the work, her motivations were very interesting to hear in the context of the gallery.

So to John Goto’s work Lewisham. The artist spent some time in the 1970’s photographing young black people either singularly or as couples in front of a very makeshift backcloth before he left for Paris and a photographic scholarship that resulted in another work called Belleville. The Lewisham series were represented in Whitechapel by three images which were denoted as being printed by Micro piezo printing. Initially I wondered whether this technology was related to Piezography which I used in it’s very early introduction to the UK as a carbon based pigment ink system. It turns out that Goto was using he term as it relates to every inkjet printer and so I now wonder why, what I thought must have been an aesthetic choice that I couldn’t fathom is perhaps instead a simple issue of technical incompetence – which I can’t understand at all. These Lewisham Lover’s Rock series all have colour casts that I found distract from the observation of the subject. It may be that this colour casting is a deliberate ploy to add a tension to the image and in my lack of comprehension I gave up wondering and asked the artist himself. He very kindly provided me with other information but to the question of colour he hasn’t yet responded.

Now, whilst I am perplexed about the Lewisham series, which have a notion of Sidibe’s work about them his other work Belleville is another aesthetic altogether. These are moderately sized images one achieves a 20” x 16” size, but most are smaller, printed on Agfa Record Rapid with Neutol WA, these are works of beauty in and of themselves. Their consistency of tonal structure is at great odds with the digital prints, their stillness as images are though very similar. What I found myself thinking about is how now through a perspective of nearly forty years hence both sets of images are about memory. The instant generation of memory by the recording of these youngsters in Lewisham and the old architectural studies of Paris which were already steeped in memory as they were photographed.

The Belleville studies were of shop windows, old streets and doorways, old pictures in dilapidated condition, these images were layered in patina after patina of echoing and aching memory, marked by the presence of the jetsam of life and, as in a few images, the depiction of peoples long forgotten in old photographs. These images were still, marking the passing of a time and now, printed as they are in a process and on a paper that no linger exists they are images of something that is no more, just as much as the fleeting capture of the Lewisham Lovers Rock portraits are of a people and a place no longer there – though the genre of Lovers Rock is making something of a comeback – perhaps that is why these images turned up at the gallery in Whitechapel and not the ones that had been selected by the artist originally?

Which leaves me considering the way in which these prints were created. The wider expansive digital prints, from scanned negatives with clear and apparent digital artefacts about them and the gorgeously toned lustrous warm tine, moderately sized prints, printed to express the images in the best possible light. I am confused. Goto kindly provided a link to a Photomonitor article where he suggested I might find the answers to the questions I posed to him earlier today. I’ve read it a couple of times and this question of aesthetic still eludes me.